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Hundreds arrested in Nigeria immigrant raids

By Jon Gambrell

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 15 2013 9:16 a.m. MDT

Soldiers, police officers and Nigeria's domestic spy agency repeatedly have raided Katangua Market, a sprawling maze of shops where tons of clothes from the Western world — some likely donated — are resold. In the latest raid on April 9, authorities arrested 251 suspected illegal immigrants, Lagos state police spokeswoman Ngozi Braide said. While some have been released, others remain held at state government headquarters in Lagos, likely to be handed over to the immigration service for deportation.

Signs of the raid on the market remained days later.

Yushau Ibrahim stood near the metal door that security forces broke down, his still-bleeding hand wrapped in a sling made out of a man's black tie. Ibrahim said police officers beat him and stole nearly $10,000 he held for local moneychangers. Other merchants said officers stole money from them as well, something Braide denied. He said that during the raid, young boys sleeping in the local mosque jumped down and ran when authorities began firing sporadic gunshots.

The police arrested immigrants who couldn't immediately show their stamped passports. That worries Tanimu, who has children who were born and only have lived in Nigeria. Once, authorities arrested his 15-year-old son and for a while refused to release him.

"He was born here. He doesn't know anywhere else," Tanimu said in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. "They wanted to take them back to Niger. My worry was where are they taking him to? Is he going to look for his parents in a place he doesn't know?"

Associated Press writers Sunday Alamba and Lekan Oyekanmi contributed to this report.

Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .

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